The Pariah – Divided by Choice
Label: Redfield Records
I make no secret of the fact that I got my musical start in hardcore and punk rock, so when a band claims to be part of a genre that I grew up with, I tend to be pretty territorial. Melodic hardcore, much like “post-hardcore,” is a term a lot of bands back in the early 2000s liked to use when they didn’t want to be outed as scream bands; sadly, many of those bands had no clue that those sub-genres already existed, with bands that sounded WAY different. In the case of The Pariah, who refer to themselves as melodic hardcore, they are exactly what they claim to be.
Divided By Choice, their debut EP, is full of melodic, noodly guitar bits played alongside some crunchy, tough guy hardcore breakdowns and shouted vocals. The end result lies somewhere between Shai Hulud and Comeback Kid, both being bands that I still completely adore. “Average” is a particularly exciting track, with a rather pretty-sounding guitar bit, and which then launches into the kind of hardcore riffs that will definitely get a circle pit going. I’m usually not a fan of the sing/scream vocals most modern bands try to incorporate into the sound, but The Pariah’s vocalist has a harsher singing style that sounds more like melodic yelling (similar to Comeback Kid) that manages to carry the tune while maintain full aggression.
With a very professional and pristine mixing and mastering job, Divided By Choice sets itself apart from the current crop of “melodic hardcore” releases being pushed by actually being exactly as advertised. Sure, there are breakdowns all over the place, but they’re not the focal point of each track, and The Pariah never really let up on the energy. If you’re not a fan of hardcore, this probably won’t change your mind, but if you enjoy melodic hardcore along the lines of Shai Hulud or Comeback Kid, and want to wash that nasty Emmure taste out of your mouth, pick up a copy of Divide By Choice.
Silver Bones – Wild Waves
Label: Agonia Records
Subtlety is not a trait that pirate metal bands typically possess. Silver Bones are a prime example of this, as their album name and track listing leave nothing to the imagination. With a motif that bludgeons the audience over the head and a style steeped in 80’s heavy metal, Wild Waves sets sail to make a splash.
While Silver Bones claim to draw inspiration from many prolific 80’s heavy metal acts, I find the best comparison for them is the likes of Orden Ogan, specifically their album To The End. Wild Waves is a monsoon of layered guitar riffs, group vocals, and straightforward percussion. Also coming into play, some scattered acoustics act as effective mood setters.
While many pirate metal acts arrr heavy handed with drama, Silver Bones keep it light. Aside from a few claps of thunder, rushing water, and the occasional creaking ship, the theatrics are sparse. Instead, the tone and tempo carry the pirate theme in an upbeat and energetic fashion.
From a musical standpoint, Wild Waves is solid, but it falls short in lyrical content. Much like country music, pirate metal tends to pigeonhole its lyrics. A song titled “Queen Anne’s Revenge” is a testament to the shallow and drained inspiration the lyrics draw from. I know there won’t be any new pirate lore created anytime soon, but I’m getting seasick of these overused themes.
While the lyrics may be as fresh as a buccaneer’s crusty sock, that shouldn’t deter you from giving Wild Bones a spin. The album’s high energy keeps the performance engaging and Silver Bones’ impressive command over their booty makes it worth coming back to. If you can’t get enough of setting sail on the high sea, this one is for you, matey.
Seedna – Forlorn
Label: Transcending Obscurity Records
With what seems to be their first album, the Swedish quintet of Seedna start out ambitious and work their way up from there. After the slow-paced tone-setting intro of “Hourglass” at three minutes and change, the band jumps into the deep end with “Wander”, a track running over twenty minutes of metal exploration, giving them free rein to do whatever they want, however they want it, with the rest of the album.
While it’s being shopped around as black metal (with no genre modifiers tacked on), it strikes me as much more in line with blackened doom (with ‘funeral’ thrown into the name mix for several passages) through the pacing, playing speed, atmosphere, and bass emphasis, along with a few other qualities. Where black metal’s typical mode of guitar expression would be some frenzied tremolo, Seedna work in measured deployments of fairly clean-toned melody; instead of battering the drums into submission, the percussion rolls out in almost jazzy slick reserve. Instead of fury, the weighty mix of morbidity and melancholy which animates most of the songs take over, though fury does come into play with force a few times.
Stylistically, even when considered as blackened doom, it’s a bit of and odd mix, as the band makes choices that keep things shifting about instead of settling into the comfortable groove so much doom favors. Thanks to that layer of distance between first listen and full click, the album has significant replay value, with different aspects of the band’s crafting laying in wait for their turn to surface, while the more overt melodies and harmonics get steady presence. As a first album, it’s a very solid piece of work, so here’s to hoping that it attracts some ears beyond people drawn by the ‘black metal done differently’ lure.